Discover gorgeous gardens featured in new movie The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

New movie: Colin Firth and Julie Walters star in The Secret Garden

A movie with the feel-good factor is just what we all need right now. The Secret Garden, starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters launches in cinemas and on Sky Cinema on October 23. Many gorgeous National Trust gardens feature in the film based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1910 novel.

Our friends at the National Trust have put together a great guide to the gardens so you can discover them for yourselves – from a ‘sunken temple’ at Fountain’s Abbey in Yorkshire to a 55-metre-long Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Garden in Wales, places that proved spellbinding settings for the retelling of this evergreen children’s classic.

Find out more about them and 14 other enchanting gardens cared for by the National Trust – all with lovely places to stay nearby. You can book at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays

Also, to celebrate the release of The Secret Garden, the National Trust has teamed up with Sky to give you the chance to win a Sky package, including Sky Cinema, for a year. So you can enjoy watching The Secret Garden, and many more family favourites, from the comfort of your own home. Enter at: thesecretgardencompetition.sky.com

The Secret Garden

A scene from The Secret Garden filmed at the National Trust’s Bodnant

Bodnant Garden, Conwy
Tucked away in the foothills of Snowdonia, Bodnant Garden was established in 1874 and forged by the Victorian vision of one extraordinary scientist and politician, Henry Pochin.
With its hillside setting the garden’s 32 hectares drop dramatically from manicured lawns and grand, flower-filled terraces, through buzzing wildflower meadows and shrub-filled glades, into awe-inspiring dells of water gardens and towering trees.
No wonder then, that the producers of The Secret Garden fell in love with this vibrant, otherworldly valley and chose it as a key location for the film. Cared for by the National Trust since 1949, Bodnant is most famous for its grand Laburnum Arch, which bursts into a riot of yellow cascading flowers towards the end of May. Keen to capture it in its glory, the film-makers were on ‘laburnum-watch’ to achieve the perfect shot.
Please note, in line with Welsh Government guidance and the local lockdown in Conwy, Bodnant Garden is only open for local residents at the moment. Booking is essential. If you live outside the local authority area, please do not visit.

The Secret Garden

Beautiful Fountains Abbey was used as a film set in The Secret Garden

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire
Once the home of devout monks seeking a simpler existence, the dramatic ruins of Fountains Abbey are a window into a way of life which shaped the medieval world. Together with the beautiful 18th century Studley Royal Water Garden, the ruins form part of a World Heritage Site named as one of the UK’s top visitor attractions.
Fountains Abbey has old ties with The Secret Garden, having also been used as a location for the 1993 film adaptation. In that version Fountains Hall was used as the exterior of Misselthwaite Manor, while a small gated doorway just opposite became the hidden entrance into the garden. This time it was the turn of the abbey ruins, as the East Guest House was transformed for its starring role as one part of the magical Secret Garden. The roofless ruin was flooded with 5cm of water and ‘wilded’ with fake greenery to achieve the look of a sunken temple.
Access: Unless staying on-site as a holiday guest, you will need to book your visit in advance via the website.
Stay for longer at: Proctor and Vyner, Fountains Hall, North Yorkshire. Overlook fine views over the surrounding countryside and enjoy out-of-hours access to Fountain Hall’s walled garden and the wider estate when you stay at these stylish National Trust holiday apartments on the upper floors of Elizabethan Fountains Hall, on the Fountains Abbey estate.
Proctor sleeps 3, from £292 for 3 nights; Vyner sleeps 3, from £292 for 3 nights.

Stay for longer at: Fountains Cottage, North Yorkshire. Spread over three floors, this stone-built former farmhouse was built in 1749 and is full of character with its ivy-clad exterior and exposed beams inside. Wake up to the gurgling River Skell just opposite, before exploring the Fountains Abbey estate.
Sleeps 8 + 1 dog, from £474 for 3 nights.

The Secret Garden

Osterley Park and House’s kitchens were perfect for Misselthwaite Manor

Osterley House and Park, London
While the garden is the main focus of the story, the forbidding Misselthwaite Manor also looms large in the lives of Mary and all those around her. The filmmakers had a clear vision for their interpretation of Misselthwaite, and in the end many of the interiors had to be built from scratch in order to achieve the right look. However Osterley’s kitchens managed to fit the bill, and only needed a bit of set dressing to make them the perfect match for those of Mr Craven’s manor.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Discover your own secret garden:

The Secret Garden

The winding footpath on the National Trust’s Colby Woodland Garden

Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
A magnificent garden off the beaten track. Discover a wild meadow with a stream running through it, complete with stepping-stones and tree swing. Head to the wooded hillside to explore pathways under the autumn canopy and spot mushrooms on the forest floor, squirrels hunting for nuts and birds preparing for winter. When you’ve finished exploring the garden, it’s just a gentle stroll down to the sandy beach at Amroth.
Access: No booking needed. Car parks, woodland garden and the Bothy Tearoom are now open. The Walled Garden and shop are closed.

The Secret Garden

The Walled Garden at Llanerchaeron has produced fruit for 200 years

Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion, Wales
Nestled in the west Wales countryside, discover a characterful and atmospheric garden that has been producing fruit and vegetables for more than 200 years.
Originally a high-tech hive of Georgian industry, the late 18th-century gardens at Llanerchaeron have a much more romantic and dreamy feeling about them today. Within the walls you’ll find productive kitchen gardens, ancient fruit trees, remnants of horticultural technology spanning the lifetime of the garden, herbaceous borders and a wonderful herb garden.
Along the south facing walls is a Victorian greenhouse and there are now 51 varieties of apples. This self-sufficient estate which is cared for by the National Trust also includes a Georgian Villa (currently closed), a farm and lake.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Stay for longer at: Abermydyr, Wales. Sitting on the banks of the River Aeron, in the heart of a wooded valley is Abermydyr – a fable-like National Trust cottage with small arched windows and yellow façade. Explore Llanerchaeron estate or head to the Ceredigion coast to paddle in the shallows and take in cliff-top views. Sleeps 6, from £286 for 3 nights

The Secret Garden

Double border in the Walled Garden at Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate

Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk
Stepping into a walled garden often feels like entering a secret world. Felbrigg’s walled garden is no exception, with plenty of surprises waiting for you inside. Along the south facing wall of the herb border, you’ll discover fruit trees, which at various points of the year bear plums, pears, apples or nectarines.
There are also some old figs believed to have been planted in the original garden around 1750. You’ll also find the intriguing Umbellularia Californica planted in 1860, also known as the “Headache Tree” or “Balm of Heaven,” a very rare species in the UK.
Access: Unless staying on-site as a holiday guest, it’s recommended to book your visit in advance via the website, especially at busy times such as weekends.

Stay for longer at: Mustard Pot Cottage, Felbrigg, Norfolk. Aptly named, this National Trust cottage sits amongst the woodlands of the Felbrigg estate, in the privacy of its own lawned garden. Besides its charming resemblance to a small condiment pot, the two-bedroom cottage is cosy and full of character inside. Sleeps 4, from £337 for 3 nights

The Secret Garden

Visitors walking a trail path at Stagshaw Gardens, a secret sanctuary

Stagshaw Gardens, Ambleside, Lake District
Despite its proximity to Ambleside and the main A591, Stagshaw is a secret sanctuary. When you go through the tall wooden gate into this hillside garden cared for by the National Trust, with its narrow mossy paths, lush green groundcover and flowering shrubs, it’s like walking into another world. Climb high enough into the garden and you’ll be rewarded with views of Windermere lake and the mountains beyond.
Access: Stagshaw garden open dawn to dusk. Local car parks are open but spaces are limited – check www.saferlakes.co.uk for up to date info.

Stay for longer at: Silverthwaite, Nr Ambleside, Lake District. Overlooking the Langdale Valley and set in woodland, this grand five-bedroom house was built by suffragist Amy Sharp in the early 1900s. Much of the Arts and Crafts influence remains, from the period fireplaces to antique furnishings and floral detailing throughout. Sleeps 8, from £849 for 7 nights

The Secret Garden

The stunning walled garden in autumn, hidden near woods at Wallington

Wallington, Northumberland
The walled garden at National Trust Wallington in Northumberland is hidden at the edge of the woods, behind Neptune’s Gate. There’s an abundance of plants and flowers to enjoy as you wander through its winding paths. You can’t see the garden in one view, so discover different areas as you explore. You’ll find an Edwardian conservatory, the Owl House and an open lawn next to a pond which makes the perfect spot for an autumnal picnic – just remember to wrap up warm.
Access: Unless staying on-site as a holiday guest, you will need to book your visit in advance via the website.

Stay for longer at: Bolt Cottage, Wallington, Northumberland. Surrounded by trees in the heart of the Wallington estate, this traditional stone-built cottage makes the perfect bolthole for couples or families seeking an escape in nature. Look out for otters and native crayfish in the river and red squirrels in the trees. Sleeps 4 + 1 dog, from £302 for 3 nights

The Secret Garden

The path through the Pergola Garden to a glasshouse at Gunby Hall

Gunby Estate, Hall & Gardens, Lincolnshire
With eight acres of gardens to discover, there is always something in bloom at Gunby. In autumn you can wander under the apple tree pergolas, or discover the herbaceous borders brimming with seasonal blooms. In the kitchen garden the walls are covered with pears, plums, gages and figs, with more apples and pears forming patterns down the central double border. Some of the many varieties of apple are ‘James Grieve’ and ‘Kings Acre Pippin’ dating back to a list compiled in 1944.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Stay for longer at: Orchard Cottage or Whitegates Cottage Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire.  Set within the sweeping parklands of Gunby Hall, these two cosy cottages offer walking trails through the estate and unique access to the garden. Just a little further afield you can take bracing walks along the coast, or explore the historic city of Lincoln. Orchard Cottage sleeps 4, from £280 for 2 nights; Whitegates Cottage sleeps 2, from £219 for 2 nights

The Secret Garden

The walled garden at 17th century Croft Castle, which also has a vineyard

Croft Castle and Parkland, Herefordshire
Be enchanted by the special walled garden and working vineyard at 17th-century Croft Castle. Follow the sweeping border and look out for bees at work in the gardens where you’ll find accessible paths and dogs welcome too. Discover a variety of seasonal flowers all year round, along with traditional and rare apple varieties. In the walled garden you’ll also find the 1914 ‘J.Weeks and Co’ glasshouse and vegetable, fruit and salad borders.
Access: Unless staying on-site as a holiday guest, it is recommended to book your visit in advance via the website, especially at busy times such as weekends.

Stay for longer at: Garden Cottage, Croft Castle, Herefordshire. Built into the garden walls of Croft Castle, you’ll feel intertwined with nature in this dreamy ‘gothic’ style cottage. Green shrubs climb its walls and pruned lawns encompass the property. It’s no surprise that it was once home to the estate’s gardener. Sleeps 6, from £357 for 3 nights

The Secret Garden

Coleton Fishacre is ablaze with red and orange planting in autumn

Coleton Fishacre, Devon
Autumn in the garden at Coleton Fishacre is a riot of colour. The Hot Border is ablaze with red and orange planting, mirrored by autumn leaves on trees such as acers, the Persian ironwood tree, tulip tree and katsura tree. The walled garden where the small stream (or rill) runs through the centre puts on an impressive display as well, presenting a fragrant patchwork of pastel hues which fade away as autumn deepens.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Stay for longer at: Compass Cottage, Dartmouth, Devon. Perched in leafy woodland on the Dart estuary portion of the South West Coast Path, walkers will love this new three-storey retreat. Discover small quiet beaches on the doorstep, including the wonderfully named Sugary Cove and Ladies Cove. Sleeps 5 + 2 dogs, from £454 for 3 nights
Stay for longer at: Higher Brownstone Farm, Near Kingswear, Devon. Set down a quiet country lane and surrounded by fields in the wider Coleton Fishacre estate, this recently refurbished former farmhouse offers countryside views from large Georgian windows. There’s even a full-sized billiard table. Sleeps 12 + 2 dogs, from £1039 for 3 nights

The Secret Garden

The Round Garden was laid out in the mid-19th century

Cliveden, Berkshire
Cliveden’s long-term project to restore its Round Garden orchard continues. It was laid out in the mid-19th century and once produced fruit for the Cliveden estate.
It is possibly the only surviving example in the UK of a circular fruit orchard from this period. It was highly ornamental, with apple, plum, cherry and pear trees growing up and over 7ft-tall iron hoops arranged around and across the 250ft diameter.
Of the original 230 hoops several have been restored or replaced. Work has been done to preserve the 150-year-old fruit trees as well as planting new local and heritage varieties.
Access: Unless staying on-site as a holiday guest, you will need to book your visit in advance via the website. You will be turned away if you arrive without a booking.

Stay for longer at: Ferry Cottage and New Cottage, Berkshire. Cliveden’s formal gardens give way to secluded glades, tree-lined avenues and picturesque riverside with miles of woodland trails. Explore the estate from these holiday cottages with Thameside views. Ferry Cottage sleeps 4, from £422 for 3 nights; New Cottage sleeps 4, from £422 for 3 nights.

The Secret Garden

View of the Ruin from the rock garden at Nymans, a perfect secret garden

Nymans, West Sussex
With its walled gardens, hidden statues and romantic flowers, Nymans is just how you would imagine a secret garden. Especially in autumn, when mist obscures and reveals the stone arches and ruins of the house. Head Gardener Joe Whelan says: “In autumn the garden’s extensive collection of trees and shrubs transform into a rich tapestry of oranges, purples, reds and yellows.”
These include species of Acers, Berberis, Cercidiphyllum, Hydrangea, Liquidambar and Viburnum. In the Arboretum look for red oak and Nyssa, with their intense hues of red and yellow. These link the garden to its woodland backdrop, where native beech, birch, hornbeam and oak trees create a vivid landscape of colours. Nymans’ plant collection includes hundreds of specimens collected by plant hunters dating back to Victorian times. Today, this tradition continues with the South African beds – a treasure chest of unusual plants, planted in bold cheerful drifts, which are at their best in autumn.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Woodlands Cottage, Nymans, West Sussex. Created by Ludwig Messel, Nymans is a garden lover’s delight. A series of gardens within a garden, it has everything from dazzling herbaceous borders to a romantic Italianate loggia. Set within a working woodland, this picturesque and cosy cottage was built in 1863 and was once home to the estate’s gamekeeper. It’s a short stroll from a tranquil lake and is the perfect spot for bird watching and walking along many woodland paths. Sleeps 4, from £376 for 3 nights.

The Secret Garden

Autumn colours at Greys Court which feels like a secret garden

Greys Court, Oxfordshire
Nestled among the rolling Chiltern hills is Greys Court, an elegant Elizabethan mansion with a secret garden. Shielded from the house by a Tudor outbuilding and Medieval tower, the entrance to the walled garden is through an unobtrusive bricked arch. The path leads you past a tiny knot garden and through ornate metal gates into a long garden of simple proportions, framed by cherry trees.
Beyond, a series of walled garden ‘rooms’ are revealed, one by one, by opening wooden doors in the ancient stone walls and stepping through into a different setting. Shaded pergolas and flower tunnels of crab apple, clematis and rose acacia open into new garden spaces – the rose or kitchen garden. Gravel paths criss-cross through high yew hedges and a cave-like wisteria room. Whilst Greys Court feels like a secret garden, it was never intended to be private.
When the Brunners arrived at Greys Court in the 1930s, the garden was practically derelict. Lady Brunner set about creating a new garden using the existing network of walls as her framework. She wanted to create ‘a haven of peace and tranquillity’ for visitors, and being of a theatrical background she couldn’t resist adding the layers of intrigue and mystery with the garden’s hidden niches and concealed doors.
The result is a secret garden that comes alive when it is peopled with visitors discovering its treasures.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

The Secret Garden

The Temple of British Worthies at Stowe is an 18th century garden

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
The scale and beauty of Stowe have attracted visitors for more than 300 years. Picture-perfect views, winding paths, lakeside walks and temples create a timeless landscape enjoyed by thousands of people every year. What everyone doesn’t know, is that Stowe is a garden of secrets, crammed full of hidden meaning, allegorical references and mythology.
Stowe’s gardens are framed around three paths, Vice, Virtue and Liberty, which you can physically follow today by picking up a map at visitor reception. Along the Path of Vice, the temples allude to stories of sordid goings-on and partying to excess.
There are many bridges to cross on the Path of Virtue, but the effort is rewarded by temples and monuments showing the great and good of Britain’s history. The path of Liberty represents the political aspirations of Lord Cobham. As a metaphor, it’s the longest and hardest of the three walks, showing that politics is never easy.  If you’re looking not for a secret garden, but for a garden full of secrets, Stowe has layers of intrigue to discover.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

The Secret Garden

A view of the Elizabethan gatehouse tower from Sissinghurst Castle

Sissinghurst, Kent
Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s vision for the garden at Sissinghurst began in the 1930s. Between them their different skills blended together to create the garden that we know and love today. Harold’s architectural planning of the garden rooms combined with the colourful, abundant planting in the gardens by Vita, reflects the romance and intimacy of her poems and writings.
Around every corner is a new vista. Garden rooms open onto one another through clipped hedges and doorways in ancient stone walls. Views emerge at the transition from one secluded space into another. They give way to the wider expanses of the orchard or the Mediterranean landscaping of the Delos Grecian garden. Neat linear avenues are revealed with abundant under-planting feathering hard edges. Fountains, statues, urns and water features peek through foliage and rise above ground cover planting. This is a garden of secrets, with hidden spaces and clever design that dares you to explore further.
Sit within one of the garden rooms and feel the sense of calm and restorative peacefulness that this place was made for.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Stay for longer at: Priest’s House, Sissinghurst, Kent. One of the most sought-after cottages among garden lovers – Priest’s House offers the unique chance to stay on the edge of Sissinghurst Castle’s White Garden. Believed to be part of the Elizabethan mansion on the estate, this luxurious plant-clad cottage has reams of original features inside, including gorgeous mullion windows and an inglenook fireplace. Sleeps 6, from £714 for 3 nights.  

The Secret Garden

Autumn flowers at Mottistone Gardens, home to a Tudor manor house

Mottistone, Isle of Wight
Nestled in a warm, sheltered valley beneath the downs, Mottistone Gardens has a feeling of intimacy from the moment you wander through its old stone archway. At its centre stands a mellow-stoned Tudor manor house, surrounded by an enchanting hillside garden created by Lady Vivien Nicholson.
Inspired by her Sicilian upbringing, exotic plants bloom well into autumn, and terraced steps lead to unexpected delights, such as a mini olive grove. Discover a tiny, tucked away kitchen garden packed with autumn produce including displays of bright pumpkins.
It’s the hiding place for one of Mottistone’s Flowerpot characters too – there are nine for children to find. Winding paths take you to ‘Oak Corner’ at the top of the garden, and a weeping lime with branches that droop to the ground and pruned archways so that kids can walk right inside. High up here you’ll spy benches in the little orchard, set beneath trees whose branches rustle in the autumn breeze, and from where ‘secret’ views plunge down over the gardens, village and sea beyond. It’s the perfect place to be still, and to soak up the sounds of nature that envelop you.
Access: Please book your visit in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.

Stay for longer at: Mottistone Manor Farmhouse, Isle of Wight. Carefully restored to preserve the spirit of this seven-bedroom farmhouse and its 18th-century features, each room invites you to explore its heritage. Discover the island’s dinosaur coastline from here with plenty of walking and surfing to enjoy. Sleeps 14 + 2 dogs, from £596 for 3 nights.

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